Thursday, June 05, 2003

How it all started - getting an agent, and the first projects

This blog is going to keep track of my writing efforts, daily life, and any silly things that happen. To put things into perspective, here is The Story So Far, or How I Got Into The Business:

As you may or may not know or care, in 2002 I won the Sci Fi Channel's Sci Fi Shorts competition. This meant that my 10 minute script would get made professionally into a proper, 10 minute short film, and released in front of Men In Black 2 in the cinemas. It all turned out very well, although it didn't get released with MIB2 - it came out with Reign of Fire, The Bourne Identity, Halloween Resurrection, and Final Destination 2. Not a bad result...

Anyway. The upshot of all this was, the film people said I'd probably get an agent out of it all, when the industry screening was held. This was supposed to be September 2002. Then it was late September. Then it was December. When I asked again, it was "Oh, January, early, definitely." So I stopped asking - I realised that I couldn't expect people to give me a career, and if I wanted to make a go of this writing lark, I needed to do something about it myself. I've been writing for years, but this was my first foot in the door. I needed to kick the door open, murder the owners, rob them blind, and burn down their house with their children screaming from the bedroom windows. So to speak.

So I planned out my, er, plan. I had a script called The School, a 6 part TV thing, which I was very proud of. I also decided to write a full length film script, and then start approaching agencies. I bought the Writers Yearbook thingy, checked out many, many websites for agent details, and drew up a long list. I would submit my scripts to them, one by one, changing and editing if I got feedback along the way. If I got to the end of the list with no acceptances, then I could just forget about it, face the fact that I'm shit, and kill myself.

The first agent loved The School, and wanted to sign me up straight away. He's been busily whoring the script all over the place, I've been meeting producers, and all sorts of exciting stuff. That's the short version of the story so far; I've left out all the Sci Fi Channel stuff. But to briefly fill in the end part: short film got made, I was on set to watch, great fun, it came out, blah blah, got a copy on video and CD, all was lovely. I've also been keeping track of my writing, and what I'm working on. Here are the full details, or How I Got My Agent:

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October - November 2002

Finish first drafts of The School, episodes 2 to 6. Come up with lots of film plots, some of which even make sense. Decide to go with the strongest - Mirror.

December 2002

Complete first draft of Mirror.

January 2003

Do second draft of Mirror; get feedback from wise, witty friends. Polish off the third draft. After much dithering and searching through agents' websites, decide to approach PFD first - they're big, therefore powerful, but kind of chummy and friendly, not off-putting, which is good. When I'm ready, I'll send them my things.

Tuesday 4th Feb

Print out the stuff I need, compose a letter of such heartbreaking genius they can't possibly reject me. Or at least, they'll have to be polite. Or maybe not. I don't care. Bastards, what do they know?

Thursday 6th Feb

Finish printing everything off, get Mirror properly bound at work, because despite me having the strength of ten men, I can't get a staple through 106 pages. I decide to take it round to PFD by hand. Not that I don't trust the post office, I just don't trust myself to put the correct address on. Strangely anticlimactic; I arrive, hand it in, am thanked politely, and leave, all within 30 seconds. Okay, it's done. The result of nearly 6 months' work, in their hands. The die is cast.

Monday 10th Feb

Get a phonecall from Jago at PFD. He has read my scripts (already? yikes) and liked them, especially The School, which is a surprise. Would I like to come in for a chat? Er... fuck YES! Jump up and down for a bit. This is all going very quickly. By the way, isn't "Jago" a cool name? Sounds all streamlined, cat-like and dangerous. I shall never speak to him of this.

Wednesday 12th Feb

Meet Jago. He's really nice, funny, clever and keen to represent me. He loves The School, and thinks it's one of the strongest spec scripts he's seen. He tells me all about what an agent does and doesn't do, and generally fills me with excitement. Would I be prepared to write episodes of existing shows? Only if I like them, I say. Good, says he - if you don't like them, there's no point, better to say no than to hand in an inferior script. I like this guy. He also says that because The School is so strong, I probably won't have to go the whole Eastenders/Holby City/Emmerdale path to prove myself, thank Christ. That would have sucked, because I don't like or watch those shows, and wouldn't know how to even go about writing an episode of them. He wants to know if I want him to represent me - inwardly I'm screaming "YES! PLEASE!", but I try to remain calm, and agree to call him the next day to see how I feel.

Go outside and jump around in Covent Garden for a bit.

Thursday 13th Feb

Phone Jago and say yes.

He says he's going to get photocopying and send the script out to a few people, put out feelers. He's very cool - finally, someone who says they'll do something and actually does it, with no messing around. I now have an agent. I can actually say the words "my agent" and it isn't a joke.

Monday 17th Feb

Phone message from My Agent - a producer has got back to him already. He doesn't mess around, he said he'd send the scripts out, and he did. The producer of The League of Gentlemen emailed him, saying she really liked the script, and wants to know if she can meet me.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I fall over myself to phone back, leaving a message on My Agent's machine, emailing him, his assistant, and his mum just in case.

Tuesday 18th Feb

It's all set - the meeting is on for Tuesday 4th March (the day before my birthday) at some club in the Strand. Do you say in the Strand or on the Strand? Who cares? 4th March. Christ. It doesn't seem quite real: I am meeting the producer of The League of Gentlemen, to talk about my script that she really likes.

I get some more feedback from My Agent (novelty hasn't worn off yet, saying that) about my other ideas, too, which is really helpful, he knows his stuff. He loves the woodlands story, and thinks it could be something really sick and funny. I'm going to develop the characters and work out how they all fit into it. I've also got an idea for a kickass TV thing set in London, that I don't think has been done quite this way before. Finally, it all seems to be a bit more real than before. I've got an agent. Blimey!

Rest of Feb

Start work on first draft of woodlands thing (2006 edit: this is Severance, which was known as Primeval, then Craw Lodge, then P45, then Severance - look how I travel through time)

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And now, June 2003.

At the moment, The School is getting sniffs from one or two people, hopefully there'll be some news about that soon - the producer tried pitching as animation to some telly bloke, but he wasn't having any of it. She's busy filming for a while now, but there are other irons in the fire, melting away - they're plastic, you see. The woodlands movie thing I've been having trouble with. The ending just won't work, and it's driving me crazy. Just finished the 8th draft - about to start the 9th, but have ploughed through two Syd Field books which weren't hugely helpful, although they did make me realise that the script has one major structural problem: it doesn't have an actual structure. It has a beginning and a middle, but it doesn't have an ending, it just stops. I've been trying to tack on endings, which have no relation to what has come before, among other things. Anyway, I think I know how to fix it.

But I'm taking a break first, writing two TV things, one surreal mystical science fiction comedy, one mystery scary horror stuff. I've met lots of producery type people, which has been great, and they've all been really positive. That's more or less everything so far. And now, our story continues... in the next post. Whenever that may be. I'm going to try and update this every day or so, but if there's nothing to say, then I won't. The world will just have to cope, somehow.

How do you get an agent, then? Send some scripts to them, with a covering letter explaining who you are and what you can do. Make sure the scripts are the very best you can do, keep the letter short, and follow the submission guidelines. Worked for me, anyway.

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